The Lady Banks Roses Are Out!

In my garden, like the bougainvillea, these climbers love the spring equinox. Or perhaps rosa banksiae just responds to the warmth of the sun after its winter rest. These small white rosettes on almost thornless stems emit a subtle fragrance and climb vigorously.

First bred in China, they were first brought to the West by a Scottish gardener named William Kerr, and named after the wife of Sir Joseph Banks, the famed botanist and director of Kew Gardens at the time. According to Wikipedia, Kerr’s skills as a gardener at Kew Gardens were noted by Banks, who sent him to China to seek plants in 1804. He stayed for eight years, bringing back 238 plants new to European gardeners and scientists. These plants include japonica, lilies, bamboo, and begonia, among others.

Rosa banksiae was used in ancient Chinese medicine to stop bleeding from wounds. Its fruit contains tiny brown seeds which can, after the hairs surrounding them are removed, be eaten like sesame seeds and contain an oil that has healing properties. According to the website of the British non-profit Plants for a Future (PFAF) these fruits are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, essential fatty acids, and flavonoids.

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 Colcannon For St Patrick’s Day

Last November I went to Ireland.

I have three Irish great-great-grandmothers, and they all left their homeland in about 1849 to escape starvation.

On my recent trip, my brother and I met with a genealogist at the Skibbereen Heritage Center. We wanted to trace what happened to Jane, one of the more colorful of these ancestors. She came from the Skibbereen Workhouse. Her family had ended up there in the Great Famine of the 1840s. To get into the Workhouse, where you might get one or at most two meager meals daily, you had to be absolutely destitute. And this area of Cork was absolutely destitute. When the potato crop failed, mass starvation stalked the land. While Ireland today is prosperous and produces beef and dairy products for export, its own sad history led to poverty for most of the people. Books have been written on the mismanagement that caused the starvation, but it is not hard to understand why the Irish people had come to depend on the easy-to-grow potato.

It is delicious.

Potatoes are the perfect food. Potatoes are fiber and protein, but no fats, the potato is dense with vitamins B6, magnesium and manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium,

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What Food Gardening Gives Us

It is citrus season here. Walk around this neighborhood and you’ll see oranges, lemons, and grapefruit bowing down the trees.  I don’t grow Seville oranges but one year I picked them off the ground near a local park where they had fallen.

I made marmalade with them.  Last weekend our neighborhood held a citrus exchange at the local school.

Knowing that there is a ready source of vitamin C just outside the door gives me a sense of security. It’s not that I could feed a family from my efforts in the garden, but I know it helps.

I learned to garden from my father. In our vegetable garden, he grew potatoes, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, beans, peas, lettuce, beets, parsley, thyme, and tomatoes. The fruit trees carried so many plums that to this day I can’t stand the taste of them. We had them stewed with a little sugar for dessert the entire month they were in season, as we did in turn with the pears and the apples we also grew. There were oranges and lemons in the winter. Dad made lemonade, and my mother and grandmother made lemon and orange cakes. For eggs, we had a ready supply

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